Stroke patients could be running the risk of brain hemorrhage if they take Lipitor (generic name atorvastatin) to lower cholesterol, according to a US study.
While Lipitor did significantly reduce "coronary events," the hemorrhage risk also increased. So it is a question of striking balance, says study author Larry Goldstein at the Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina.
Lipitor is used to treat high cholesterol. Lipitor is also used to lower the risk of stroke, heart attack, or other heart complications in people with coronary heart disease or type 2 diabetes.
Before taking Lipitor, tell your doctor if you are allergic to any drugs, or if you have:
• underactive thyroid;
• kidney disease; or
• a muscle disorder.
• drink alcoholic beverages,
• have a chronic muscular disease,
• require major surgery, or
• have a blood disorder.
Such are normally the general words of caution. In rare cases, Lipitor can cause a condition that results in the breakdown of skeletal muscle tissue. This condition can lead to kidney failure, it used to be said.
But now the brain hemorrhage danger. This involves the rupture of weakened blood vessels in the brain, leading to rapid bleeding. An ischemic stroke is caused by an obstruction within a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain.
The Durham study was a secondary analysis of a double-blind, randomized clinical trial funded by Pfizer, the company that makes Lipitor.
Participants were enrolled between September 1998 and March 2001and followed for an average of 4.5 years.
Researchers found that 2.3 per cent of 4,731 patients who had suffered a stroke in the previous one to six months experienced a brain hemorrhage during the study period, compared to 1.3 per cent taking placebo. They were taking 80 mg of Lipitor each day
But taking Lipitor also reduced patient's risk of fatal and non-fatal ischemic stroke by 21 per cent, as well as leading to a significant decrease in "coronary events."
According to the study, people who were more likely to experience a hemorrhage included those who'd had one before beginning treatment with the anti-cholesterol drug, older people, men, and people with untreated high blood pressure.
Levels of LDL or total cholesterol, smoking status or use of anti-platelet drugs or blood-thinning medications did not affect the risk of stroke, researchers found.
The study is published in the Dec. 12 online edition of Neurology, the journal of the American Academy of Neurology.